Mason Anthony Brookes, of Queenstown, who yesterday
admitted two charges under the Biosecurity Act 1993 in
relation to a scorpion-smuggling ring. Photo by staff
A Queenstown teenager is seeking a discharge without
conviction after yesterday admitting his part in a
scorpion-smuggling ring before Judge John McDonald in the
Queenstown District Court.
Mason Anthony Brookes (18), apprentice builder, admitted
possessing black rock scorpions on or about March 14 in
Queenstown, and making a false or misleading statement to an
official regarding the origin of a scorpion in his possession
on April 19 in Queenstown.
A third charge of wilfully withholding relevant information
on the origin, distribution and presence of the scorpions was
Iszac Walters (23), of Sydney, James Alexander Grant (24), of
Arrowtown, and Matthew Stuart Grant (22), of Queenstown, have
already admitted their parts in the offending and await
Prosecutor Grant Fletcher, appearing for the Ministry for
Primary Industries, said Walters smuggled six scorpions
through Christchurch International Airport on February 17 and
supplied all the insects to James Grant.
He supplied two to his brother Matthew Grant, and then gave
him another two, which were sold to Brookes.
In April, MPI received information alleging Brookes was in
possession of a live scorpion, kept in his bedroom. MPI
investigators found the scorpion in his wardrobe.
When questioned, Brookes said he found the scorpion in a
takeaway box and ''decided to keep it''.
He said he had only one scorpion.
The ministry obtained an order for Brookes' cellphone and
discovered several text messages indicating others were aware
of, or in possession of, scorpions.
Brookes' sent messages included one asking why his ''little
mates ain't eating'' and texts received included one on March
31 suggesting he should ''release your scorpions''.
Orders were then obtained for Matthew Grant's phone. On April
24, a text was received by him asking if he had ''heard the
''Biosecurity have ceased [sic] a scorpion in Queenstown!!
Was it the one you sold?''
The Grant brothers said that Brookes bought the scorpions for
$300 and, when his was seized, they destroyed the remaining
Mr Fletcher said Brookes was interviewed again on July 11 and
was co-operative after having spoken to his lawyer. He
confirmed he bought two scorpions, but one died before the
He admitted initially making a false statement and said he
had lied because he did not like ''narking'' on others.
Defence counsel Sonia Vidal said she intended to seek a
discharge without conviction for her client.
Judge McDonald remanded Brookes at large until December 16
for the application to be heard.
The Grant brothers will be sentenced on November 18 in
Queenstown, while Walters will be sentenced on December 11 in
The maximum penalty for each of the charges is five years'
prison or a $100,000 fine.
Advice received by MPI indicated the scorpions could survive
in New Zealand, their sting could cause inflammation and pain
for several hours, and they could exist for eight years or
more in the wild.